Lord of the Rings Online will be free to play this fall

My inbox in the morning is usually filled with a good degree of nonsense. “Look, it’s an iPod dock in the shape of a protozoa!” No thanks, not interested. But this! This is big. Beginning with this fall’s expansion, Lord of the Rings Online, the MMO developed by Turbine, will be totally free to play! Meaning, you download the game for free and can play online for free. Free as in beer, folks.

How does Turbine make any money, then? Like they do in the East: they sell items and quests and so forth à la carte, or you can buy everything in one shot at a discounted price thereby making you a LOTRO VIP.

So you can download and play the game for free but maybe you’re limited to a certain number of swords or whatever. If you want more swords, you’ll have to buy ’em.

A beta for the new expansion begins on June 16.

Given the way MMOs are going, it makes you wonder how much longer Blizzard is going to be able to charge $15 per month for World of Warcraft. I understand WoW is a special case, but if more and more MMOs move to the free-to-play model, will WoW look like the odd man out?